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James M. Simms (James Meriles)
The First Colored Baptist Church in North America. Constituted at Savannah, Georgia, January 20, A.D. 1788. With Biographical Sketches of the Pastors.
Philadelphia: Printed by J. B. Lippincott Company, 1888.


In addition to serving as a Georgia state legislator, James M. Simms was a builder and auxiliary pastor of the First African Baptist Church and a trustee of the First Bryan African Baptist Church, both in Savannah. Here he offers the centennial history of the First Bryan Church in an effort to claim the title of first African American Baptist Church in North America away from the First African Baptist Church of Savannah, Ga. Simms's story is both complex and interesting. Beneath the surface of what appears to be no more than a history of quibbling churches is in fact an important historical record of the struggles associated with establishing, running, and growing a church for African Americans during the period from 1788 to 1888. In addition to the history of the First Bryan Church, Simms includes a report on the church's present condition (1888); the church's constitution, by-laws, and articles of faith; as well as biographical sketches of the church's pastors.

Brent Kinser

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